MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The night of mayhem and death started with the sound of helicopters above pitch-black fields. When it was over, the French intelligence agent who had been held hostage for more than three years was almost certainly dead, as was at least one French commando, and the home that served as the agent’s final jail was destroyed. And now the Somalis living in the muddy farm town had new cause to fear the militants controlling their street.

It was too dark to see beyond the brief glow of flashlights, but noise was everywhere, said Ali Bulhan, who woke up when the earth started vibrating to the beat of the helicopter rotors. And the flashlights were abruptly extinguished when the French soldiers shot the Somalis who had turned them on to see what was happening in their town in the dead of night, said town elder Hussein Yasin.

The commandos were there to free a French intelligence agent captured on Bastille Day in 2009. The man, known by his code-name Denis Allex, was chained up, abused and moved from one safe house to another, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday. Le Drian said the government decided to stage the rescue a month ago, when Allex’s location seemed to have settled down “in a spot accessible by the sea.”

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